Have You Seen The News?…And My Opinion Of The News…?

We get news all day, every day. There’s not a single minute in which another report of another event is not being slotted into our stream of consciousness. The older ways of doing this are becoming passé for many parts of the planet, but there will still be newspapers, broadsheets, and people crying the latest in the village square for the forseeable future. It may be an electric cry, but it’ll be there.

What a burden. Think back to an earlier time – for instance here in Australia during the first years of European settlement. Local news was what you found out personally or were told by a neighbour. A traveller from another port could bring a printed broadsheet or government gazette. Itinerant pack sellers and carters could pass messages – accurate or not – as they went through. But there must have been blessedly long intervals in which nothing more was thrust upon our minds, and they could get on with the business at hand without new anxieties.

I wish that were the case today. I am not pleading for complete ignorance, but I’d appreciate a bit of time to absorb one disaster before I need to wring my hands over the next one. I get sore hands.

I also get a sore head when I see how people on social media take each event, and the reaction to that event by others, as an opportunity to push their own barrow. Whether that barrow contains a political package, a religious suggestion, or a portable virtue flag on a stick, it is still a vehicle that has little to do with the actual occurrence. Fortunately the load is generally of such little value and such light construction that it can be abandoned by the side of the road when the next attractive disaster is reported.

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No More Free Speech

Nope. No more. I have declared that there will be no more free speech permitted by the Backstabbers Guild of Australia.

From here on in, anything we say will have to be paid for according to the price list. No more freebies. You want us to talk, you come out with your wallet. Have no fear – we’ll give receipts and an ABN number and we’ll make sure that you get good value for money. But this Guild is a commercial proposition and you cannot expect the business of destroying civilisation and blighting a generation to be done on a friendly basis.

Or, to put it another way – if you have no mates you need not give mate’s rates.

Of course people can say what they will – we have defamation lawyers on speed dial just hoping that you’ll overstep yourself. And we would not dream of restricting people in the practice of their various religions, political affiliations, or disturbing traditional dances. These are all legitimate activities and can serve as worthy targets of treachery. We also welcome serious-minded souls who are unlikely to laugh even if a bear is biting them.

But as far as denouncing them, betraying them, or otherwise making them the nonny-butt of the Guild humour, you’ll need to put down a deposit and pay regular installments before we let them have it.

Business is business, and we are in the business of giving you the business.

My Hobby, Sir, Is Below…

No, not that far down. That’s a different hobby. Stop staring.

My hobby is what you are reading right now. I write now.  I write four weblog columns each weekday and three on the weekends. I get paid money to pen one of them and the other three pay in joy.

I did not realise this was going to be the case when my friend Joanne suggested over a café breakfast that I look up WordPress. She, like many young people, is somewhat of an expert on the social media and connection side of things. But she doesn’t make the technical side of things sound as hard and confusing. Nor was it, once I had picked up a couple of simplistic books on the WordPress blog experience.

My first efforts were crude – like my first engagement with Facebook – but gradually the business of telling a story ( and that is all I am doing when I write ) started to flow and it has gushed ever since. I’m a photographer with my own studio so I can make pictures to enliven the print and as much as the graphic designers amongst my readers may quail, I can dot them with words. Generally the words I choose try to be funny. Sometimes they succeed, but only sometimes…

So I finally have to admit I like engaging you in this one-sided conversation – I look upon it as a Catskill monologue. Hence the title of this first weblog column. I’m here all week – try the pasta surprise.

The chef was absolutely surprised. He was aiming for bacon smoothies.

 

Here Comes An Election

And I’m ready.

I have cleared space in the cake tin for Mrs DeSouza’s lemon slice and I have the cash ready. I will also save space for the Democracy Sausage ( I belong to the Fried Onion Party – Mustard Division ) because I take my federal responsibilities seriously.

Of course there will be that silly Walk Of Annoyance as you approach the polling station and the activists of various parties try to hump your leg. I wave them away and head for the end of the line, secure in my choice before i even see if I have one. If you go early ( lemon slice early ) you need not stand there too long, but you’ll be faced with the same ballot paper no matter what.

Australian ballot papers are still actual paper – rather than a machine with levers. We are crude down here, and our savage nature generally results in a clean ballot. There have been occasions where ballot boxes have gone missing and by-elections have resulted, but we trust that heads have rolled in the electoral commission over this and are currently being displayed on pikes in Canberra. For the most part we might not get the politicians we deserve, but we do want to get the ones we have voted for.

Oh stop. I know he only got in on 19 votes and the demise of the previous Senator. And I know he has made an ass of himself in the Senate. But remember that the Speaker of the Senate is Darryn Hinch and if that doesn’t show the true nature of the body, nothing will. I’m glad we don’t have Daryl Somers or Agro there in his place. Yet.

So, there we’ll be at the local school with our ballot paper and tiny pencil in hand. Due to the nature of the democratic process in Australia the paper will be roughly the size of a tarpaulin ute cover. It will contain names we have never heard of before representing parties that make us feel vaguely dirty. We will marvel that people would come out in public and espouse the rubbish that we see on the paper.

Never mind. Number them backward from the most objectionable/flaccid/hilarious to the ones that actually might be competent. If you cannot bring yourself to vote for anyone treat yourself to a 5-minute session of blighting someone’s hopes forever. You are unlikely  to ever meet them in person but you can make their deposit vanish.

The Social Register

A social register is a grille set into the floor or wall that emits hot air in winter.

No, wait, that’s a central heating system. The social register is a small book that is available at a public library that emits hot air all year round. It tells you who is considered to be important enough to be noticed by the people who are not important. It’s the handbook of snobbery.

My experience with these books is small. I was never asked for an entry in Who’s Who or DeBretts. The Amanach de Gotha is so much German to me. I did briefly feature in ” What The Hell Was That? ” but it has a limited readership. Most of the information in it was hearsay and I am glad I neither heard it nor said it.

The whole idea of public record of social standing is a little like zinc chromate paint – a necessary treatment but a sickly colour. You may read as many potted biographies in the book as you like, but the real question will be why you are reading – for moral gain or financial advantage? Worship or targeting information? And are you required to believe anything you read?

Remember that many of the people in there wrote their own guff – or were rich enough to hire someone to write it for them. Are they likely to be telling you dirty little secrets? Not on your nelly. What you’ll read is the image they wish to project – even if they are dim, cracked, and dirty to begin with the result is likely to be shiny and bright.

But do not be too discouraged or cynical. Social registries do have a benefit for the community. Once they are published the lies are out in the open – and recorded clearly for all to see. As time goes on the truth about most people surfaces, and then you can compare it to the advertisement for an even more piquant experience. The lawyers of the powerful will prevent you from scolding or scalding them, but they cannot stop you from laughing.

 

I Become An Influencer*

The cry of the moment is the desirability of becoming an Instagram influencer. But I suspect this – as I suspect most aspects of modern computer life. The suspicion is that the whole circus has passed Instagram by and is way off down the road doing far cooler things to far hotter people. Or vice versa.

I was once accused of being an influencer by a representative of a wholesale camera firm who thought he was not getting enough coverage for his products in my commercial column. He insinuated that another firm had bought me with a free camera. In reality they alerted me to their products with the freebie and I went and spent a vast amount of money on their goods out of my own pocket. Any reports I made were genuine. And as far as pressuring people into following me, the customers have the minds of cats, not sheep. They rarely purr, are not herdable, and occasionally throw up in your shoe.

But back to Instagram. I was cozened into subscribing to it by someone who likes to show off on it and wanted another viewer. I’ve added a few other contacts and a couple of artists and cartoonists and find it a pleasant light browse while dinner is cooking…but not such a vital artistic service as to cause me to allow the soup to boil dry. I do like the colourful art, but I wouldn’t buy anything because of it. And I really don’t think others would either.

Oh, they’ll buy from paper flyers loaded into the post box. They’ll buy from shopping channels that endlessly bombard them with simple instructions. They’ll buy from door-to-door sales cons and Royal Show spruikers. They’ll buy from Harvey Norman. But I don’t think they’ll buy because I’ve posted toy airplane pictures on Instagram.

*  Or should that be an influenza-er. Come here and I’ll sneeze on you.

The Portrait Portrays

Or betrays. Then it is known as a betrait…

We are all accustomed to internet posts that have an image of the author at the introduction. The facility with which an actual photo can be added to a social site is marvellous – but few people realise what they are either showing or seeing. Frequently the picture trips up both poster and viewer.

I use a construct – a picture taken of myself in the studio wearing my dad’s old khaki shirt ( 60+ years old and still going strong ) a freebie hat I got from Nikon – with their trademark struck out – a pair of binoculars, and a 1:18 scale plastic fighter plane. You are encouraged to think I am an admiral on an aircraft carrier. I particularly admire the resolute look on my face. I think it is most probably wind…

Other people use pictures that have been sliced from phone cameras or worse. They are lucky to be recognisable. A phone selfie in a bathroom making a duck face is a poor advertisement for a duck, let alone a person.

One person I’ve noticed, an internet troll, uses a quasi-mysterious selfie with roiling edges and the expression of a dyspeptic llama. It’s ugly, but damned accurate. He cannot be accused of deceptive trading.

As opposed to these travesties, some people use genuinely beautiful images as their trademarks. It’s a wise move, and even if they do not match up to the image in real life, the picture is so much more with us that we remember it instead of them. It’s a mistake to steal someone else’s beauty, but if you can pay for at least one good shot of yourself, it’s money well spent.

The no-image introduction, or the cartoon character presented in lieu, are as telling as any real image. The person does not wish to give anything away – either of themselves or of their time. Whatever they write is not backed up with any veracity of personal presence – and can generally be flicked over instantly. You can brand yourself well or badly and get the attention of the populace, but when you are a faceless opinion you lose most of your credibility. Even if all you post is a picture of the either end of your alimentary canal, you are making a genuine contact.

I must show you my collection of orifices some time.